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Rhodes pays dearly for anti-Zionist stand

Startling picture of anti-Israel bias & outright racism towards Jewish staff & students emerged in a report by a Jewish leadership delegation sent in April to investigate complaints on campus. Read how Jews & Zionists are persecuted at Rhodes. It took an ex-Mayor, the SAZF, a website & some heroes backed by a determined lawyer to ensure Rhodes paid for their atrocious HR failure. It also cost Rhodes millions in present & future donor funding to boot.
by ANT KATZ | Jan 01, 2014

JEWS UNWELCOME AT RHODES UNIVERSITY
 

"Targeted for her Zionist

affiliations
" -Bagraim



This emphatic statement was made by Michael 'Bags' Bagraim, one of SA's top specialist labour lawyers and the immediate past president of the SAJBD - after he had reached a settlement on behalf of Jewish Rhodes staffer Larissa Klazinga last month.
 

A startling picture of anti-Israel bias and outright racism towards Jewish staff and students at Rhodes emerged in a report after a six-person Jewish leadership delegation went to Grahamstown in April to investigate complaints from the campus.
 
 
Rhodes tranquilLarissa Klazinga’s story is about an almost two-year-long saga that speaks to the anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli culture that pervades the hallowed halls of Rhodes University (pictured at right) in Grahamstown.

Larissa endured the first year alone and the past eight months with considerable assistance from community organisations – and which ended ‘happily’ at the end of November with Rhodes paying a “considerable” amount for their failures.


LARISSA’S TALE
is one that she has chosen to write herself. “One of the reasons I wanted to tell the story in my own words was because I wanted to make clear that Rhodes is not an institution full of scoundrels,” Larissa told the SAJR Online. “There are a lot of very good people there who stood by me. Someone like Susan, who is an attorney, and many others,” she said.

Her story is well worth reading, maybe before one reads any further – but this is a complex story which has the makings of a best-seller - if ever there was one. It is a multi-layered matza pudding packed full of good guys and rogues, deep deceit, a deep-seated anti-Israel culture on the campus which has become a toxic environment for Zionist supporters – both Jewish and Christian. “I am serious when I say to Jewish parents: Don’t send your kids to Rhodes,” says Larissa of her alma mater where she worked for over a decade.

Some of the spice in this real-life drama includes:

Rhodes - Klazinga Larissa22-months of hell for staffer targeted for her love of Israel;

2 BDS-sanctioned witch-hunts against her known to staff & VC’s son;

Practicing Jews leaving their religion blank on enrolment docs;

Accusations of financial impropriety in RU funding for Israel Apartheid Week;

Anti-Israel email attacks which didn’t raise management's eyebrows;

Ex-Mayor’s tough fight with SAJBD to aid Jewish staff & students;

Rhodes' management tried to make case of racism against her & partner;

SAJBD trying hard to supress the story (which became the year’s top read);

Dep-VC’s threat to disband Fairness Forum after they decreed it not racist;

Long list of charges levied, dropped same day after “shut-up” money rejected;

Huge Jewish donor backlash hits Rhodes – and there is still more to come; and

Jewish & pro-Israel staffers now investigating the funding of IAW at Rhodes.

ABOVE: Larissa Klazinger

Rhodes University has finally signed a settlement agreement with Jewish staffer Larissa Klazinga who, says her attorney Michael ‘Bags’ Bagraim, was “targeted for her Zionist affiliations.” The amount paid was subject to a non-disclosure clause but was satisfactory according to both Bags and Klazinga.

22-months of hell


Klazinga, who has worked in the Dean of Students’ office for a seven years, first fell afoul of Rhodes during Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) in 2012 and then again in March 2013.

Rhodes Bags“It’s been a great victory,” said Bags (pictured at right) who represented Larissa together with advocate Izak Smuts SC. The university had raised a laundry list of disciplinary charges but, says Bags, “all of them came to naught.”

Bags told SAJR Online that Klazinga was “relieved at the outcome, and extremely satisfied that it is over. She was targeted for her Zionist affiliations,” said Bags, a Cape Town-based specialist labour lawyer (and immediate past president of the SAJBD). Charges included “wearing a pro-Israel t-shirt and displaying an Israeli flag on her office door,” he told Jewish Report.

Rhodes has been plagued by a series of charges of anti-Israel sentiments since March, when charges of racism were also mooted against students putting up pro-Israel posters on campus. The matter was referred to the university’s Fairness Forum which found the posters were protected by freedom of speech and no charges were laid.

2012 witch hunt – where it all started


In LARISSA’S TALE, she writes of “a nine month battle to get Rhodes to take action against what emerged later to be a BDS-sanctioned witch-hunt involving senior academics and extending to the head of BDS National (Muhammed Desai).” SAJR Online has seen some of the e-mail correspondence referred to.

Rhodes IAW 2013aIn an e-mail carrying the subject line: “CONFIDENTIAL Research” just prior to IAW 2012, a member of BDS-SA in Joburg advises students and some staffers that she has been tasked with a pre-emptive attempt to “lodge a formal complaint to Rhodes University” by collating anti-Larissa information over the IAW week. The recipients include “Rhodes staff members” and the organisers of IAW 2012, including the son of the Vice-Chancellor. Hussein Badat, and BDSA-SA head Muhammed Desai.

“I am currently doing research into pressing issues that have been made apparent in the Dean of Students Office at Rhodes University. These issues concern the ways in which Larissa Klazinga has been administrating and managing students, student events and student life in a bias, oppressive and politically dangerous manner.

“What I am looking for is feedback and evidence in any medium: written, verbal, video. I would like to collect data and people's personal experiences on this matter in order to lodge a formal complaint to Rhodes University,” says the writer, whose name is known to SAJR Online.

“If you would like to make a formal statement, that would be extremely helpful ‐ otherwise any other ideas, examples or evidence would be most useful. This is a HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL MATTER. Please treat it as such. Please send me details of any other people who you think would be willing to participate,” she concludes.

In another e-mail, the off-campus BDS-SA spy-boss tells the recipients exactly what to look for and how to report back to her. “After months of requests and finally with the help of my Union Representative,” writes Larissa, “I was able to secure a conviction against the author of the original anti-Israel email in October 2012.” However, she says: “To date no action has been taken (by Rhodes) to address the BDS witch-hunt.”

Ex-Mayor’s tough fight to be allowed to go


 Rhodes - TimelineKlazinga originally contact the SAJBD in Cape Town for assistance. This was referred to SAZF Cape Council president Jonathan Silke who, in turn, referred the matter to Joburg-based Likud-SA chair Leon Reich whom he felt would be the most knowledgeable person to attend to it. Reich sat on the Rhodes Council for ten years during his time as a City Councillor and Mayor of Grahamstown.

The reason for the matter being bounced around between the Fed and the Board was most likely that it one of those issues where their mandates overlap, said Reich afterwards. Broadly put, the Fed’s role is to oversee the relationship between SA Jewry and the State of Israel – while the Board’s is to oversee the relationship between SA Jewry and SA society as a whole.

Rhodes Mary Kluk chairperson SAJBD - LONG - CopyReich as a political leader is more closely aligned with the Fed and hence approached their national chair Avrom Krengel and proposed assembling a high-powered team from both the Fed and the Board. “Avrom was most cooperative,” says Leon. “He gave me a budget to work with and agreed with my suggestion that I meet with the Board.” However, says Reich, although he had agreed with Board chair, Durban-based Mary Kluk (pictured at right), that he should meet with a senior team from the Board in Joburg to discuss a strategy and plans the trip, “when Isla (Feldman, the Fed’s national executive director) and I turned up for the meeting the Board staff were not there.”

As both organisations are housed in the same building in Joburg, says Reich, “and as it was clear that they did not intend to be cooperative, I had to call Mary in Durban. She assured me that the Board staff would be there in ten minutes, and they were.” Leon adds: “It would be remiss of me not to mention that in all my dealings with Mrs Kluk on this issue she was extremely courteous and supportive”

A delegation was then put together to travel to Grahamstown in April 2013 to meet Klazinga and other Jewish and Christian Zionist students and staffers. The meeting that took place was chaired by SA Country Communities Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft (who is a Board employee) and senior Board member David Saks who compiled a report on the meeting.

SAJBD tried to supress the story

Says Michael 'Bags' Bagraim: "Your report was spot on and alerted us to the fact that Ms Klazinga had been treated both unfairly in labour law and unfairly in terms of our equality in labour legislation. The litigation was a 100% successful. Well done in highlighting this issue in public. Keep up your good work!”

After the April meeting had taken place, the writer (who was then publishing the MyShtetl website) contacted several of the delegates to enquire as to the outcome. The answer was consistently that the Board’s David Saks would submit a report in due course.

Rhodes LeonIn mid-April, Likud’s Leon Reich (pictured at right) sent MyShtetl a copy of a comprehensive report by David Saks. Over the following week the report was discussed with Larissa who expressed grave concerns about an article being published, fearing for her job and it was agreed to expunge her name and some other statements from the report for her protection as well others. At this stage nobody had been charged for anything by Rhodes.

The story was originally published on 25 April on MyShtetl under the headline RHODES ANTI-ISRAEL SHOCKER! and has been read over 13,000 times and had numerous angry comments posted by members of the Jewish community. Both the writer and Reich received several calls from members of the SAJBD in Joburg and PE within hours of its publication - asking that the story be removed from the website. It was not. David Saks’ request that his report not be referred to as “The Saks Report” was accommodated and Rabbi Silberhaft, who had chaired the meeting, requested that his picture not be used. This, too, was promptly replaced with a Rhodes campus picture.

No fewer than six members of the national executive committee of the SAJBD and senior staffers expressed objection to the publication of the story to the writer, then MyShtetl’s publisher and/or Reich.

At the same time, several academic and administrative staffers and students at Rhodes, both Jews and Christian Zionist, supported the publication of the story.

The publication of the story also had the full support of Michael Bagraim, the immediate past president of the SAJBD.

Positive response for Jewry, negative for Rhodes


There can be little doubt that the publication of this story had immense ramifications – but they all seem to have positive.

After the case was settled in November, Bags sent the following note to Reich: “Dear Leon, Now that the Rhodes University dismissal case has finally cleared I can give you some feedback as to what was the catalyst in us being involved in this litigation. We saw your online report with regard to the problems at Rhodes University. On receipt of that information I, being a graduate of Rhodes University, tried to contact some of the individuals I know on the staff to find out exactly what was going on.

Klazinga - Michael Bagraim"Your report was spot on and alerted us to the fact that Ms Klazinga had been treated both unfairly in labour law and unfairly in terms of our equality in labour legislation. I contacted Adv. Izak Smuts SC who agreed to help us in this matter at a much reduced payment rate. Izak Smuts who is an old friend of yours charged us about a tenth of his normal. The litigation was a 100% successful. Well done in highlighting this issue in public.
Keep up your good work,” wrote Bagraim (pictured right).

Leon Reich says he is delighted for Larissa now that she is free of the stress and has been awarded compensation. “Let this be our lesson to all anti-Semites,” he says, “that you if you attack Jews or Israel without cause, there will be a price to pay!”

Another spin-off of the story was that it was read by at least one highly respected businessman in the community who had earmarked a substantial amount of funds for Rhodes. The funds were first put on hold after he had read the article. This led him to making further enquiries and, eventually, to terminate the funding and redirect it to an Israeli institution.

Yet another Jewish alumnus of Rhodes refused to speak at the annual Joburg fundraiser in last month after the story was brought to his attention. Leon Reich and a senior Rhodes academic staffer persuaded Rhodes alumni Graeme Joffe to withdraw from a Joburg fundraising event that was scheduled for October due to the university’s anti-Zionist stance.

Other community members have agreed to discuss the matter with the many local and international donors. One of the single largest donors to Rhodes is believed to be the Ackerman Family Foundation.

Rhodes' failed case of racism against Larissa & partner

 

During IAW 2013, a number of people with Jewish and Zionist leanings downloaded some posters from the US group pro-Israel StandWithUs which they stuck up on campus in retaliation to the attack on Israel.

The posters showed people who had been publically hung in Muslim countries for being gay and “apparently intended to expose Muslim homophobia have provoked the anger of Rhodes University staff members, students and alumni, who say they are racist and xenophobic,” said article by Victoria John MAIL & GUARDIAN on31 May 2013.

The full page story - Outrage over ‘homophobia’ posters – sub-headed “Rhodes students and staff are livid after ‘racist, xenophobic’ posters were displayed on campus - Rhodes was quoted as being devastated that their plans to prosecute Larissa’s partner for displaying pro-Israeli posters during IAW had failed.Rhodes - poster blurred HOME


PICTURED LEFT – one of the StandWithUs posters, SAJR Online has intentionally blurred part of it

 

"Homosexuality is a crime punished by imprisonment, flogging, stoning, hanging or beheading in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and others," says the text on one of the posters poster. The posters were ripped down and Rhodes wanted to bring charges of racism against those who had hung the posters.

The matter was referred to Rhodes’ ‘Fairness Forum’ which is an internal body largely made up of members of the Dept of Law which advises on such issues. The forum's functions include advising the university in disciplinary cases, and its decision followed a staff member's complaint about the posters. After an investigation and a hearing, the Forum decided that the posters could not be called racist and were allowable under the constitutional right of free speech.

Rhodes - poster published in M&G PICTURED RIGHT: another view of a StandWithUs poster, SAJR Online has intentionally blurred part of it

This led to a 98-strong group signing an open letter to VC Badat deploring the university's Fairness Forum's decision that the posters were acceptable "on the basis of free speech." The letter clearly had a dig at Zionists by describing the photos as depicting “deceased people of Semitic origin."

The letter called for a "university-wide forum adjudicated by the office of the VC where the posters can be placed on public view" and all views on their acceptability can be aired.

Rhodes had agreed to this, according to the M&G. Deputy vice-Chancellor for student affairs Sizwe Mabizela told the MAG that Constitutional limits on freedom of expression do not permit "advocacy of hatred based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion.  

Rhodes’ threat to disband Fairness Forum


Mabizela also said that Rhodes was going to review “the role and purpose of (their own) Fairness Forum in due course.” He also said that action over a student who apparently put the posters up, and the fact that a staff member was also allegedly involved, "shall follow due process."

He was, of course, referring to Larissa (who denies any part of putting up the posters) and her partner Charlene, at the time a student.

The 98 signatories said "the selective choice of countries" referred to was problematic because "the posters target entire national groups and by implication their religion."

Non-signatory staffer responded

While no one has publicly claimed responsibility for putting up the posters a staff member, who said he was not involved, and asked the M&G not to be named, said: "I didn't see anything factually incorrect [in the posters]. Homosexuality is a crime in those countries. Iran has a long and horrific history of violence around this.

"I don't believe they were racist. The photos are disturbing, but they do highlight an area of the world where human rights violations are a day-to-day occurrence – in particular against homosexuals and women. Anti-Israeli posters put up during IAW didn't document the proof of where those photos and statements on the posters came from either." READ MORE ABOUT THIS ON MY SHTETL

Charges dropped after “shut-up” money offer rejected

 

After IAW 2013 and the issue of the StandWithUs posters, said Larisa this week, she was told by Roger Adams in mid-March “that charges were being investigated against Charlene (her partner, for the poster incident) and I.” But she was unable to establish what she was being investigated for.

Klazinger HOME“Every time I asked what was happening I was told that that the investigation was ongoing,” she says.

“I understood that my every move was being watched. I felt like I couldn’t perform my job properly.”

“Now to introduce myself: while I’m certain we all agree that labels are for boxes not people, for the purposes of this story, permit me to use broad strokes: I’m a hearing-impaired Jewish lesbian vegetarian with a bi-racial Xhosa fiancé (nobody panic - she’s converting)” Read LARISSA’S TALE in her own words.

She was then booked off work for a while in April and May for “stress related leave on the advice of my psychologist supported with the appropriate certificates,” she explains. She says she had the sick leave days due.

The formal CHARGE SHEET would eventually include 15 specified charges and a further 18 issues – the vast majority of both being related to pro-Israel activities – which, said the charge sheet "will be canvassed at the hearing." The charges ranged from "behaving in a sexually provocative manner in public" to causing "considerable discomfort to student leaders" and being "untruthful with the Head of Division." The charge sheet is signed by HR director Sarah Fisher and copied to the Dean of Students Dr Viv de Klerk.

Even when she returned to work she was unable to find out what she was being investigated for. “A charge sheet was finally given to me on 7 June and I was told that I needed to be ready to defend myself a week later!”

Larissa immediately contacted Chuck Volpe, who is the Board’s representative for the Eastern Cape who put her in contact with Michael Bagraim in Cape Town. She also sent a RESPONDING DOCUMENT to the charges.

“Chuck was very helpful and supportive and had been briefing the Board and providing me with advice for months,” she says as she had anticipated that charges would be brought. She had even liaised with Bags before 7 June. Larissa sent the charge sheet to Bags who told her he would not be able to attend on 14 June, but would get advocate Izak Smuts to appear on his behalf.

Bags takes up the cudgels


Michael Bagraim chuckles when referring to the four-page CHARGE SHEET that was served on Larissa. “The charges were amorphous and not identifiable,” he says. There were 15 defined charges and a further 18 issues which "will be canvassed at the hearing" said the letter which was signed by Rhodes’ HR director, Sarah Fisher, and copied to the Dean of Students Dr Viv de Klerk.

Klazinga flies Israeli FlagThe 'amorphous' charges Bags referred to ranged from "behaving in a sexually provocative manner in public" to causing "considerable discomfort to student leaders" and being "untruthful with the Head of Division." Bags laughs again.
 
RIGHT: “I’m so proud to be able to be here with my partner to say publically that we stand with Israel, the only country in the Middle East that supports the rights of women and gay people” said Charlene Donald, driver of the bakkie renamed “the Zionator’ for the parade. Flying the Israeli flag would only have served to infuriate the anti-Zionist element on campur further. Read LARISSA’S TALE in her own words.

“You can’t charge someone for walking down the main street holding their partner’s hand,” he says. He also says you can’t expect someone to respond to a charge like “you caused someone discomfort.” He says a charge sheet must specify the details of the charge so the accused can prepare a defence.

Larissa told the Jewish Report that when she discussed the charge sheet with HR director Sarah Fisher she was assured it was drawn up by Rhodes’ attorneys. Fisher herself had not been briefed on the matter – only received the charges, asked to put them on a letterhead and sign it.

“We immediately requested further and better particulars and we said that we presumed a postponement would be in order to allow us time to prepare,” Bags told the JR Online. “My office then got a phone call and we were told that the charges could be discussed at the hearing. We were also told Larissa was only allowed internal representation,” he says.

“I told them that I disagreed,” he says, and he therefore sent Izak Smuts along on 7 June to ask for further particulars and to get a postponement.

Larissa continues the story


When Larissa and Izak walked into the hearing on 7 June, they found Rhodes prepared with their big guns. They had appointed an external chair for the hearing – a common practice but only when a hearing may lead to a dismissal - and to prosecute the case was Rhodes’ external attorney, Brin Brody of Wheeldon, Rushmere & Cole.

The first thing that happened after the introductions had taken place, says Larissa, was that “Brin asked if the chair would step out of room.” Larissa and Izak were somewhat confused but had no objection. As soon as they were alone, Larissa told Jewish Report, “Brin offered me an amount of money to walk away.” Due to her agreement of non-disclosure of financial matters Larissa could not say what the ‘amount of money’ was. But she did say it was a surprisingly substantial amount.

She promptly told them that there was no way she would entertain any settlement. “I wanted my day in court,” she says. The chair than came back in and a date was set to reconvene two weeks later. She would have her day in court, with Bags at her side.

“When Izak said that he was there representing Michael Bagraim,” says Larissa, “it seemed to change everything.  Until then, I think they thought I would admit guilt and take their offer,” she said.

Enter Susan Smailes


After the adjournment of the hearing, says Larissa, Susan Smailes, who is vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat’s director of special projects and herself a lawyer, told Larissa that “she was going to speak to the VC because she felt things had gone badly wrong somewhere.

“The VC and deputy-VC invited me to tea at 5pm – together with Susan Smales,” explains Larissa.  She wasn’t sure what to expect. She certainly couldn’t have foreseen what would happen over tea, that’s for sure.

“They told me that the case would be completely ‘aborted’ according to the VC and that I should take some time off.” Just like that! Larissa says that Dr Badat said he was so appalled at the charge sheet and the manner in which the matter had been handled, that he dismissed the entire case.

RhodesNot only that, says Larissa, but Dr Badat told her that to avoid any discomfort, Larissa would “report to Susan Smales until a settlement could be reached.” He also suggested she take a few days leave.

LEFT: The Rhodes campus 

“As it happened,” says Larissa, “I had already applied for annual leave so I was given three days of so-called special leave” added to it.

It seemed that VC Dr Badat had, by all accounts, acted very quickly and admirably to address the situation once it was brought to his attention.

When Jewish Report contacted him for a comment and pointed out his apparent commendable action, the VC was originally prepared to talk. But, once asked why, then, an immediate process began to negotiate a “shut-up” package and why the matter was not handed off to the human resources department for the normal grievance and/or disciplinary measures to be followed, Badat changed tone. This was a complex matter, he said, and he was on holiday. He was not prepared to comment now, but he invited SAJR Online to contact his office in the new year and he would be prepared to discuss the matter further, he said.

Jewish Report also tried to ask about whether the VC had authorised Rhodes’ attorney, Brin Brody, to make a substantial offer to Klazinga earlier on 14 June if she would walk away. But, before the question could be completed, Dr Badat had terminated the call.

Both Bags and Larissa say that while she was within her rights to continue working for Rhodes, the relationship between herself and her line managers had deteriorated to the extent that she just wanted out. It was therefore agreed by all parties that Susan Smales and Bags would negotiate a departure package.

“When I came back to work about a month afterwards, it seemed that there hadn’t been any communications (from the VC) with Roger and Viv regarding the reporting lines,” which was difficult for her.

This led to a few months of acrimony says Larissa. “It became progressively more difficult. Susan and Bags did the negotiations – at some point I met with Susan directly – I consider her a good friend and we work well together. That wasn’t acrimonious at all, just frustrating because it took so long,” she told Jewish Report afterwards.

“Susan (Smales) was adamant that neither the VC nor the deputy-VC had seen the charge sheet beforehand,” says Larissa. She herself believes they were aware of the goings-on, “but I don’t think they were aware of exactly what (the charge sheet) contained.”

Larissa decides to tell her own tale


“One of the reasons I wanted to tell the story in my own words was because I wanted to make clear that Rhodes is not an institution full of scoundrels,” Larissa told the SAJR Online. “There are a lot of very good people there who stood by me. Someone like Susan, who is an attorney, and many others,” she said.

 “If there is just one hero in this story,” says Larissa, “I would say it was Susan, who acted with integrity under very difficult circumstances.”

But Leon Reich believes that Larissa herself was the hero. “She was very brave,” he told Jewish Report. “She had no financial backing and couldn’t afford to lose her job – and still she took on Rhodes. The atmosphere in the office was very difficult for her, she was being asked to assist with IAW issues and she refused,” he said.

Bags, on the other hand, thinks Leon Reich was the hero for putting the story in the public domain – against all odds. 

Practicing Jews afraid to disclose their religion

 

Little wonder, then, that a Rhodes staffer who spoke to Jewish Report last week only on condition of anonymity, said he had complained to management in an email earlier this year that he knew of some “Jewish students who leave the Religion question blank on their enrolment documents” for fear of discrimination.

In his email, the staffer was asking Rhodes to ensure that the “toxic environment” for Jewish and Christian Zionists on campus was dealt with.

Rhodes Flags%20home%20Larissa showed SAJR Online an email conversation she had to endure in March 2012 to illustrate this toxic environment caused by anti-Zionists who are not sanctioned for their actions.

RIGHT: Larissa and Charlene had mustered all the Jewish and Zionist members on Campus to show publically in an Intertnational parade that they stood proudly behind Israel


At 09h33 on 12 March 2012, almost two years ago and in the heat of IAW 2012, a research associate whose name is known to SAJR Online addressed an email to Larissa and another person whom he believed to also be a Zionist:

“As a Rhodes University staff member I am extremely uncomfortable knowing that some of my colleagues flaunt allegiance to ideologies such as racism and ethnic cleansing which are criminalised in South Africa. I can only imagine that you are misinformed of the situation in Palestine/Israel,” wrote the research associate.

He copied the correspondence to Dean of Students Vivian de Klerk, who was Larissa’s boss, and to an Andrew Buckland, the Drama Dept. Head Of Department. Neither senior staffers appear to have intervened in any way (which later forced Larissa to initiate a succesful charge herself).

The writer attempts to direct the two Zionists to sources where he tells them they will see for themselves what crimes Israel is committing and he ends his e-mail thus: “Please reconsider your alignment with ideologies many of us here in South Africa, plus millions of decent folk from around the world, fought hard to eradicate and finally to criminalise. Apartheid is a crime against humanity.”

At 10h32 the same morning, Larissa promptly responded to the writer, telling him she has no idea of the other ‘accused’ party’s position on Israel “and will allow him to respond in his own right.” She also adds that she will “be seeking legal advice about the rest of your email.”

Barely an hour after it all began, the research associate’s reply comes to Larissa. By now, he has clearly established that the other party he had accused is not is not a Jew or a Zionist. “May I remind you that this is not America, or Israel for that matter, and you may find the courts here rather less sympathetic to your cause than you seem to think,” he tells Larissa. “And thank you for clarifying the matter of Mr Haxton, who is UNDERSTANDABLY UPSET AT BEING ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR ILK.” (All capitalisation and bold type by the editor)

Financial impropriety in funding IAW questioned

 

Some members of Rhodes academic staff who are pro-Israel supporters have expressed concern about the funding of IAW since March, particularly in relation to the Dean of Students’ (DOS) office. Jewish Report has been corresponding with two of them since June and established that both have been liaising with the deputy-Dean Roger Adams – who has now moved to UCT.

Adams had responded to one of the men’s e-mails in April confirming that an amount of money had been allocated to the IAW event. He subsequently denied to the other sleuth In September that the DOS has not allocated any funding to the event. When the second sleuth sent a copy of Adams’ April correspondence confirming the allocation of funds to IAW, Adams explained that while the DOS office had initially intended to make a grant, it had later decided not to.

One staffer wrote to the DOS in March expressing appreciation for the difficulties they had “especially considering the prominent role of the VC’s son in IAW.” But, he said, on behalf of the Jewish students on campus he asked the DOS to appeal to the SCR’s better nature and allow all views on the Israel/Palestine issue to be “aired without fear or favour.”

Senior staff don’t sympathise with Israel


Adams responded that he had spoken with Jewish students: “I did also mention to the students that it is probably not untrue that sympathy in “senior” circles of the university, although not official, may sway more towards the Palestinian cause as is the case with our national government - that is our national reality and this may inform our office’s assessment of the scale to which something like the IAW is controversial. You may want to debate this, and “our office may want to review whether funding of the IAW is a good idea at all.”

Adams writes that he believed mediation (between pro-and anti-Israel groups) would be constructive “but I suspect that the charge laid would have to be dealt with first.” The charge he was referring to was the racism issue but no charge was ever laid as far as Jewish Report can establish.

Second staff sleuth responds...


Roger Adams, after telling the second senior academic staffer that no funds were given to IAW 2013, was challenged with his own earlier e-mail.

“Although a notion prevailed to offer funding to the IAW organizers at some stage,” responded Adams, “…no money was given in the end.

“As far as senior management and their sympathies are concerned I was merely speculating based on what seems to prevail in mainstream politics in the country and I had no particular individuals in mind… But I would admit that maybe it was not my place to make this speculation and I will certainly be more careful in future.”

Adams speaks to Jewish Report


Deputy Dean of Students Roger Adams was most obliging when approached by Jewish Report. In Larissa’s Tale, she writes about him removing a printed copy of an Israeli flag on her office door:  “I could not have been more wrong. I returned the next day to find the page removed and shoved under my door with a note written on the back by Roger Adams, the deputy Dean of Students, asking me to discuss the matter with him immediately.”

Adams’ response: “I thought based on previous political positions taken that my actions were not controversial. That is fairly accurate – it was a politicised sticker.” Adams said it wasn’t just a flag but had a political message on it as well. “Its intention was to espouse a political position. We wouldn’t allow an ANC or DA flag on our doors,” he explained, (in the DOS office) “we must be welcoming to any kind. It was not because it was an Israeli flag, it was political.”

Larissa writes: “I arrived at his office wearing an IDF shirt and was instructed to remove it and not wear any ‘military or pro-Israel’ clothing to work. I was told that using my office to further a political position was inappropriate and I was instructed not to make any public statements in support of Israel.” Asked about this by Jewish report, Adams said: “Once again it was with general reference to anything militarised.” With regard to Larissa saying she has worn the same clothing before, Adams agreed. “We were tolerant of it before,” he says, “but when things became heated we thought such things may become provocative.”

Financial impropriety rears head again

Larissa writes: “IAW 2013 was more of the same, with the Dean of Students’ Office offering to sponsor IAW events at the invitation of Roger Adams.” This question caused Adams to pause for some time. He then said he “did not liaise with (Larissa) about IAW this year at all because of problems they had encountered last year.” He then used the exact words SAJR Online had seen on his e-mail: “There was a notion of giving, but it never happened.”

Again, Adams repeated that in any event he had especially not discussed anything financial related to IAW with Larissa this year.

Jewish Report respectfully explained to Adams that it had a copy of an e-mail thread between him and Klazinga on 5 March to this effect. He insisted it couldn’t be so. And so we read to him from it (greetings excluded):

Roger Adams  to Camilita Naiker 5 March 2013 12:20 Subject: RE: Israeli Apartheid Week – “Thanks you for your proposal. Our office will contribute R1500 towards your event.”

Roger Adams to Larissa Klazinga 5 March 2013 12:34 Subject: FW: Israeli Apartheid Week - “Larissa ‐ FYI. Their full ask was for R2700.”

Larissa Klazinga to Roger Adams 5 March 2013 13:42 Subject: RE: Israeli Apartheid Week – “Hi Roger, is it coming out of event sponsorship or awareness? I didn’t budget for this so if it’s coming out of awareness I need to cut somewhere else. Let me know.”

Roger Adams to Larissa Klazinga 5 March 2013 13:47 Subject: RE: Israeli Apartheid Week - “Yes please cut somewhere else. I was presuming that we should be fine given that we were well underspent on your budget last year due to the SP t‐shirt windfall. Please send me a copy of the budget.”

Larissa Klazinga to Roger Adams 5 March 2013 13:59 Subject: RE: Israeli Apartheid Week - “Please could you send me the final budget allocation I ended up with so that I can fiddle with it. I didn’t work on the budget submission last, you all the hard graft there so I don’t have a final amount and have been working on a guestimate from previous years. Is Israeli Apartheid week to become one of our annual awareness weeks?”

 Roger Adams to Larissa Klazinga 5 March 2013 16:56 Subject: RE: Israeli Apartheid Week – “Let’s take IAW as an ad-hoc event that we decide on annually and see where it goes. Our office will not get involved with running it.”

Roger Adams told Jewish Report last week that “no money was given – that I am pretty sure of.”

Asked whether any monies were transferred, Klazinga explained to the JR Online that she had sent the paperwork but that as she didn’t physically make the payments she couldn’t say for sure one way or the other.

Anti-Israel inter-staff e-mail attacks


IAW 2013 turned out to be disastrous for Rhodes. Apart from the Dean of Students’ failed disciplinary charges against Klazinga, Rhodes had also tried to lay charges of racism against students who put up pro-Israel posters on campus after complaints by a pro-Palestinian group. The case was presented to a Rhodes’ Fairness Forum which found that there was no charge to answer.

There had also been persistent rumours since the beginning of December on the Rhodes campus that Dean of Students Dr Viv de Klerk had either left Rhodes’ employ, or planned to take early retirement.

Approached for comment by Jewish Report on both the story and on her status, Dr de Klerk said she had no comment to make. Jewish Report then offered to send her a draft of the article by e-mail with some questions. “I would prefer not make a comment at all,” she said emphatically

The 'unterste shura'


“The reality of the situation,” says Michael ‘Bags’ Bagraim, one of the country’s top labour lawyers who acted for Larissa talking about the charge sheet, “is that they were basically saying we are finding you guilty of Zionism and homosexuality.” He said that the “performance issues were tacked on to make the other charges sustainable.” Hence the “laundry-list” of charges.

Bags points out that “the cornerstone of (Larissa’s) job was to assist the Dean of Students to craft policies” that would assist to sensitise students to people of other “cultures, races, religions, sexual orientations, and so on. And then they try to dismiss her for being Zionist and homosexual!” he exclaims.

Rhodes Avrom KrengelFed chair Avrom Krengel, left, supported Reich’s efforts but when the Board didn’t follow up, says Reich, the Fed had relegated their power to the SAJBD - THE STORY THE BOARD DIDN’T WANT YOU TO READ

 

Nobody expected the job to be easy, says Bags. “Some people will never accept these things,” he says about the type of differences Larissa had to resolve. “Islam doesn’t accept either,” he said. And frum Jews or Orthodox Christians wouldn’t accept being gay. But that was precisely what Larissa was employed to deal with, says Bags, not changing people but changing their perceptions and tolerance of others.

 

The matter was eventually settled and Larissa is “extremely happy and satisfied with the outcome,” says Bags. “Under the circumstances, it was the very best outcome I could have hoped for,” says Larissa.

So, what’s really happening at Rhodes?


SAJR Online will take up the VC’s offer to have a more in depth discussion in the new year. There are certainly more questions than answers and no doubt that Jewish and Christian Zionists on campus, students, staff and faculty have a genuine concern about what they perceive as prejudice against them.

The informal, internal financial investigation continues to see if public money has been allocated to IAW. Donor losses are substantial and it would seem that inflamed Jewish alumni are determined to gather others OF THEIR ILK to try and encourage more donors to shift their funding. And, of course, there is the question of the legal costs and settlement to Larissa.

But there is also a loss of know-how with rumours of more looming. The Dean of Students’ office has lost two key personnel and there are rumours that Dean Dr Viv de Klerk is considering taking early retirement. Word has it that Dr Badat is short-listed for a position at UWC in Cape Town.

 

Where to now for Jews at Rhodes…?


Related reads:

LARISSA’S TALE in her own words on SAJR Online

THE STORY THE BOARD DIDN’T WANT YOU TO READ on SAJR Online

OUTRAGE OVER ‘HOMOPHOBIA’ POSTERS on M&G Online

10 Comments

  1. 10 Gary Selikow 01 Jan
    Generally academics in the humanities these days have a venomus and bottomless hate towards Israel and it's people and all her friends. It's because they have all jumped on the bandwagon and their is no critical or independent hhought at universities anymore
  2. 9 Jacom Hirst 02 Jan
    I am struggling to believe what Im reading. Im a Rhodian now living is Aus - and will have nothing more to do with them. I am even cancelling my newsletters from them. What Bagraim and others are saying is that they targeting Israel. Anti-Zionist? Anti-Israel. Anti-Jew? Call a spade a spade - its anti-Semitism at its wordst.
  3. 8 KEVIN PAXTON 03 Jan
    As a Christian Zionist family farming in the EC we have followed this website and it's predecessor with great intesest. My eldest son matriculates in 2015 and all four of our children were earmarked to attend Rhodes.

    Unless some serious changes are made, we will most certainly change our plans.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
  4. 7 KEVIN PAXTON 03 Jan
    As a Christian Zionist family farming in the EC we have followed this website and it's predecessor with great intesest. My eldest son matriculates in 2015 and all four of our children were earmarked to attend Rhodes.

    Unless some serious changes are made, we will most certainly change our plans.

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
  5. 6 Anon 04 Jan
    This is an intolerable discrace and needs to be looked at in more detail by the SAJBD and the Dept of Higher Ed
  6. 5 Joy Capon 05 Jan
    I used to carry the fact that I was an old Rhodean as a badge of pride. No more. The university is a disgrace. Forget anti-Zionism. I agree with Hirst. Stop all the obfuscation and call a spade a spade.
  7. 4 Melissa P 07 Jan
    My comment pertains to a matter far more privately handled by Larissa herself, but when divulged begs the following questions to be answered, is she not a hypocrite? Is it fruitful to fight extremism with extremism? As a student who was not only at the Rhodes during the time mentioned above but also well-acquainted with many Jewish associates of Larissa's I found her approach in itself aggressive. However it was when I worked in association with Larissa at the Rhodes Supported MY Body My Choice Exhibition in Cape Town the December that followed my aforementioned experience of her aggression tactics, [content moderated -ED]. I also personally beg the question that if a male Rhodes employ had enetered a relationship with a student, beyond a decade his junior, who also resided within the residence of which he warden-ed, would Larissa have added his [content moderated -ED]. I, as a student never found Rhodes University, in my six years there, and as an active member of their multiple human rights agendas, wanting of such a case. So maybe she had a case to stand on [content moderated -ED] shatters her virtue as much as the above words flaunt her high. But I suppose money heals the wounds of the heart in our current society....

    [Thanks for taking the time to post, Melissa, but we have had to moderate some of this content. Publication of unsubstantiated and untested accusations of this nature could leave both you and us open to legal recourse. If, in fact, they have been, or are ever, tested in a Rhodes disciplinary process or a court of law, whichever being appropriate, and we had your identity, we could certainly air them.  -ED]
  8. 3 Lee 20 Jan
    Well done Larissa!  Finally someone has taken note of what is happening at Rhodes University.

    I too have a sad story of woe involving the University. 

    Whatever happened to Rhodes's "pledge" to Corruption Watch?    http://www.ru.ac.za/media/rhodesuniversity/content/erm/documents/RU,Corruption,Watch,Pledge.pdf


  9. 2 Shane B 25 Mar
    The document makes for some interesting reading...by cutting to the point however, the photograph of Rhodes University with the covering caption "Jews NOT welcome" is somewhat propagandist and emotive; and it is seemingly intended to create outrage.

    Your publication has failed to mention that not ALL Jews are fervent Zionists, and many eminent Jews are in fact opposed to some of Israel's internal and foreign policies...it is misleading to therefore insinuate that ALL Jews unquestionably accept Zionism and ALL that it stands for...the abovementioned caption is therefore misleading when considering the "Zionist" (rather than the "religious grouping") undertones which seemingly characterise Klazinga's actions. In light of your choice of caption and what is deemed by the writer as reckless generalising, it would therefore be interesting for you to describe what constitutes a "Jew".

    There is no doubt in my mind that it was in fact inflamatory to wear an IDF jacket during IAW as this, in my opinion, does not portray any form of patriotism but rather a form of regional military might - was this really intended to be patriotic or was it intended to create sensation and acrimonious discourse within the student body!? By being patriotic to South Africa, I certainly wouldnt wear a military outfit! Especially, when engaging with groupings of other political or religious persuasion.

    It would also be interesting to ascertain whether Klazinga always posted an Israeli flag on her office door or was this isolated to IAW? If it was isolated to IAW what was the purpose of this, and was this questionable act becoming of a meant-to-be-neutral officer of the university? Was the act one of patriotism or one of political-style inclination? 

    The article continues to highlight and praise all Klazinga's victories, admires her resolve and tenacity, and insinuates that elements linked to RU wanted to pay her to keep her quite...essentially, a communal victory for ALL Jews and an expose of the evil place that is RU!?...an uncovering of the obfuscation that constitutes the very fabric of the place...

    It is no big revelation that big organisations offer people packages in order to protect their images...in my opinion, having won or lost in a hearing, RU would've been the biggest loser. This attempt by RU to reach an out-of-hearing settlement makes even more sense when merely perusing the abovelisted opinion by an acquaintance of Klazinga which highlights her "aggression tactics"...

    Ultimately, RU is a vitally important beacon of hope in a province where access to decent education is seemingly always hanging in the balance - your biased campaign to starve the institution of funding has therefore done far more harm than good to those overwelming masses of students on campus who care little about political affiliation and contentious regional (I reiterate NOT religious) issues. In short, while RU may not seem to be squeaky clean in this matter, I would have thought that mature and meaningful discourse to highlight concerns would've been better than sanctions...while Klazinga is victorious in this matter, the average student stands to suffer here.   
     
     

         

      

          




       

       
  10. 1 Madeleine 29 May
    ABSOLUTELY SCANDALOUS!!!!
    RHODES HAS ABSOLUTELY NO ACADEMIC LEG TO STAND ON.
    IT SOUNDS LIKE THE VICE CHANCELLOR IS SCARED OF BEING CAUGHT OUT FOR HIS ANTI-SEMITIC AND ANTI-ISRAEL STANCE!!! ALSO HE OBVIOUSLY IS FRIGHTENED AT BEING EXPOSED AND THEREBY LOSING HIS SPONSORS WHEN THEY REALISE THE UNIVERSITY IS ONE ANTI-JEWISH ANTI-ISRAEL HELL-BROTH

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